Named for the presence of morning fog on the mountain range, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most popular national parks in America - particularly if you are traveling on the East coast. It is known and appreciated for its diversity of flora and fauna, the beauty of its ancient mountains, and its preservation of southern Appalachian mountain culture.
It is marvelous to witness, and everyone should get the opportunity to enjoy its splendor. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of the most highly rated and least expensive RV parks in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Travelers seeking secluded campsites should look into parking their RV at Abrams Creek Campground. It’s in a fairly remote location within the Great Smoky Mountains and has many great opportunities for hiking and fishing (without worrying about someone with zero self-awareness scaring away the fish). Campers can expect to pay $17.50/night to stay in this spectacular and quiet setting. Just think ahead as they do require advanced reservations and only accept RVs less than 12 feet long.
Another fantastic campground for those who want privacy is Balsam Mountain Campground in the national park. RVs up to 30 feet in length are welcome. Similar to Abrams Creek, you’ll have plenty of space to recreate peacefully in nature, but you’ll be able to bring a larger RV. Verizon gets good coverage, but other providers struggle to get a signal. It is also $17.50/night and requires advanced reservations.
Arguably the best basecamp for exploring the Great Smoky Mountains is Cades Cove Campground, which is of course near the ever popular historic structures of Cades Cove. This campground is huge and accepts RVs up to 35 feet long. It also has a dump station for your convenience. While it is open year-round, we recommend visiting in the spring to see the wildflowers or in autumn to see the fiery fall foliage. But no matter when you visit, you can have fun hiking, biking, and viewing wildlife. Due to the popularity of this campground, it is a little more expensive, charging $25/night.
In a quiet valley located between stunning mountains is Cataloochee Campground, which is also quite secluded. Campers come here to hike and fish without having to deal with crowds. It is a smaller campground and only allows RVs up to 31 feet in length. It is open May through October, but if you want to see elk, come during the spring or the fall seasons. As an added perk, there is drinking water and flush toilets available on the premises. For $25/night, Cataloochee is also on the pricier side of the spectrum.
If you want the backcountry camping experience in a developed front country campground, Cosby Campground is the perfect place to kick off your shoes and relax. Visitors appreciate its abundance of shade from the forest canopy and its proximity to the Appalachian Trail. This large campground accommodates RVs up to 25 feet in length and is open to the public May through October. Despite having the best that the Great Smoky Mountains have to offer, you can stay for just $17.50/night. Advanced reservations are required.
If you are a rebellious spirit that would dismiss the advice of TLC because you actually want to go chasing waterfalls, park your RV at Deep Creek Campground. The campground is surrounded by streams and waterfalls, serving as a much-needed balm for the soul. It is, however, first come first served, so you will want to arrive early if you want to snag one of these desirable campsites. It only accepts RVs up to 26 feet in length and, like the other campgrounds on this list, is open from May to October. They charge $25/night to stay there, but it is absolutely worth it.
Just eight miles from Gatlinburg, Tennessee is Elkmont Campground, the largest and busiest campground in the Great Smoky Mountains. They allow RVs up to 32 feet in length and are open March through November. Because of its central location and sheer number of amenities, it gets very busy during the summer and autumn. Visitors enjoy fishing or cooling off in Little River and James Creek, which run through the campground, as well as hiking one of the many nearby trailheads. It is also $25/night, which is understandable considering its popularity.
Assuming your purpose in the Great Smoky Mountains is to view spring wildflowers or fall colors, consider Smokemont Campground. Ridges of forest in the national park span across the border between North Carolina and Tennessee in this site near Cherokee. Smokemont allows RVs up to 35 feet long and includes a dump station. Unlike most of the campgrounds on this list, it is open year round. Advanced reservations are not required, but they are recommended. Most people come here to hike or fish, but with so many bears in the park, there is always a chance to see one yourself (just keep your distance). All campsites here are $25/night.
While there aren’t really any free campsites in the Great Smoky Mountains, there are plenty of campgrounds and most are reasonably priced for the most visited national park in the United States. Pay close attention to the length of your RV and the sizes allowed at each campground, as this will give you a better idea of which one is best for you. Summers also appear to be the busy season, but spring and fall are much more enjoyable - and less crowded.
We hope this helps you plan your next adventure! Tell us your favorite campgrounds in or near the Great Smoky Mountains in the comments.